2009/10/20

Teachers' perceptions about the purpose of student teaching

Keith Leatham from Brigham Young University in Utah, U.S., is one of the scholars who have made important contribution to research of teachers' beliefs in mathematics education research in the last couple of years. I very much like his proposed framework for viewing teachers' beliefs as sensible systems (from his 2006 article in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education). Now he has written a new article with focus on beliefs (or this time it is referred to as perceptions), and he has co-written this article with a colleague from Brigham Young University: Blake E. Peterson. Their article is entitled Secondary mathematics cooperating teachers’ perceptions of the purpose of student teaching, and it was published online in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education last week. Here is their article abstract:

This article reports on the results of a survey of 45 secondary mathematics cooperating teachers’ perceptions of the primary purposes of student teaching and their roles in accomplishing those purposes. The most common purposes were interacting with an experienced, practising teacher, having a real classroom experience, and experiencing and learning about classroom management. The most common roles were providing the space for experience, modeling, facilitating reflection, and sharing knowledge. The findings provided insights into the cooperating teachers’ perceptions about both what should be learned through student teaching and how it should be learned. These findings paint a picture of cooperating teachers who do not see themselves as teacher educators—teachers of student teachers. Implications for mathematics teacher educators are discussed.

5 comments:

Keith Leatham said...

Thanks to Reidar for the kind words about these articles. Because the issue is brought up here, I thought I'd take the chance to briefly explain the use of "perceptions" instead of "beliefs" in the most recent article. The data reported in this most recent paper is purely from a survey, with no follow-up with individual teachers. The trends we report are quite intriguing, but they speak more about the larger group than they do about any given teacher. From my point of view, it would take a much deeper look at individuals, from multiple data sources, in order to infer their beliefs from these initials "perceptions". That said, I found the consistency across these perceptions to be quite fascinating.

Reidar said...

Thanks a lot for your comment, Keith! I think this is a very interesting area: research concerning teachers' beliefs and/or perceptions. I also think your explanations of the choice of terms are useful. It indicates how complex and difficult it is to approach this field!

I also must say that I agree with you that in order to infer the beliefs of teachers we need to go deeper, with multiple methods and sources of data. Could you try and clarify even further, if possible, how you distinguish between teachers' "perceptions" and "beliefs"?

-r

Keith Leatham said...

We used the term "perception" to mean, in essence, "initial reaction". This is why I say that most people would likely have more to say and more complex beliefs about these issues. Initial reaction are very interesting, however, when looked at across a larger group of individuals because these commonalities can be construed, to some degree, as a "common wisdom" or "common viewpoint".

Reidar said...

I think this is a very interesting, and also quite sensible distinction, Keith! It also indicates (quite clearly, I guess) that there are some serious limitations to using questionnaires/surveys in order to investigate teachers' beliefs. In your view then, if I interpret you correctly, a study that attempts to investigate teachers' beliefs using a survey design would actually be a study of the teachers' perceptions rather than their beliefs!?

As I said, I think this distinction is very sensible, and I think it could have the potential to move the field forward! What you say about "common viewpoints" make me think that this could be a way of approaching what some refer to as cultural beliefs, or I guess we should rather say "cultural perceptions" :-)

-r

Keith Leatham said...

Yes, I think this distinction and the accompanying limitations it implies for survey research are very important for conducting and interpreting research on beliefs. I like the connection to cultural beliefs.